Capacity Building / Farmer Field Schools

Capacity Building: The Farmer Field School (FFS) Approach



Capacity building to promote the sustainable intensification of crop production occurs at different levels. For example, at the national level the challenge is to improve coordination and communication across sectors. Mechanisms must be developed to strengthen institutional linkages, in order to improve the formulation of policies and strategies for SCPI and to support the scaling up of pilot studies, farmers’ experiences, and local and traditional knowledge. At the local level, farmer organisations have a key role to play in facilitating access to resources - especially land, water, credit and knowledge - from both the public and private sectors, and ensuring that the farmer perspective is heard. Small farmers also need access to efficient and equitable markets, and financial incentives to manage other ecosystem services besides food production.


A field lecture is given in Mu Rieng Hamlet, Vietnam, about different rice varieties as local Muong ethnic farmer women and others listen. ©FAO/Hoang Dinh Nam


FAO has been promoting farmer field schools since the end of the 1980s. Unlike traditional approaches to agricultural extension, which rely on extension workers providing advice to farmers, farmer field schools enable groups of farmers to find out the answers for themselves. That means the farmers can develop solutions to their own problems; a group of farmers gets together in one of their own fields to learn about their crops and things that affect them. They learn how to farm better by observing, analysing and trying out new ideas on their own fields. During the learning activities in farmer field schools, farmers are often trained in smaller groups and are encouraged to be active in the discussions about the topics; hands-on field practice are favoured; and follow-up sessions by extension workers in farmers' fields should be encouraged.

©FAO/Caroline Thomas